Oh my god that reeks! Molly thought as she slowly pushed the door ajar. Judging by the noxious blast of air that hit when she began pushing against the heavy metal door she assumed that the room had been pretty well sealed. There was definitely something pushed up against the other side of the door, but the overwhelming odor of decaying flesh that assaulted her caused her stop what she was doing. She started gagging as the stench infiltrated her airway and lungs, leaving the taste of death seared in her mouth and throat. She backed away, covering her mouth and nose with her bandana while trying to stifle her coughs. She couldn’t help but think that she’d never come across a smell this bad, even after her 20 or so summers in a world ruled by death and decay.
She barely remembered the Time Before. She was just a small child when the world changed, when the sun went cold and the dead started to walk. She carried with her vague memories of days spent running barefoot in green grass beneath a clear blue sky in the warmth of the sun, memories dotted with images of birthday cakes and candles, brightly colored bits of ribbon and laughing and smiling faces. There wasn’t much, if any of that in her world now.
Overcoming the fit of gagging and coughing, Molly composed herself, pulled a painter’s mask out of her pack and put it on, along with a pair of well-used goggles. She’d encountered the dead a lot – it was a fact of life – but she had never really been able to just get used to it. And now, with a smell that was so horrid it permeated her clothes, her mask, and even her skin, she prepared herself to have to deal with what was likely a relatively newly-made corpse. She just hoped that it really was dead.
Leaning her shoulder against the door and bracing her feet against a fallen beam she began to push. The door budged a little at first but as she pushed she could feel it budge just a little more. The stench of death became even stronger and more sickening as the gap between the door and the frame widened. Finally the door came to a stop, and as it did so there was the sickly sound of bones and flesh being broken and torn.
“Damn,” she muttered. Standing up straight and taking a breath Molly assessed her progress. The door was open just enough that her slight frame might be able to squeeze through if she dropped her pack. That was not something she wanted to do. But she needed to get in that room. It could have the valuable medicine she was looking for. She weighed her options a moment longer before making her decision.
Dropping her pack and setting it in a corner she readied her machete and a small flashlight and grabbed a smaller drawstring bag to use for whatever she could find. Turning the bright white beam of light to the doorway she peered into the darkness, straining to catch a glimpse of what might be in there. Light reflected off of polished metal cabinets, on which were strewn assorted medical implements. Well, she thought, looks like there might be at least something of value in there. She paused a moment before taking a breath and sliding between the door and its frame. She moved slowly and carefully, taking care to make as little noise as possible as she squeezed through.
The stench was unbearable. Molly’s eyes were watering now, even with the minimal protection she had. She knew she would be able to stay in here very long. She swung the light around to the other side of the door where it illuminated a bloated and badly decayed corpse lay wedged between the door and the wall in a discombobulated heap of gore and guts. She relaxed a little when she realized that it was definitely dead, and not a zombie.
She turned her attention back to the rest of the room’s contents. Compared to the rest of the hospital this room looked to be a veritable jackpot. Everything else had been picked clean by previous scavengers, which prompted her to wonder why this room had been left alone. It had been 20 years since the apocalypse, so there had been more than enough time for survivors to come and go through here. It wasn’t until she had loaded up her bag with various medical items – gauze, tape, alcohol pads, a few instruments still sealed in their sterile packaging – that it occurred to her that the corpse was too fresh to have been here for 20 years, even if the room had been completely sealed somehow. Raising her machete she spun around in a moment of panic, aiming her light at the corpse; it hadn’t moved.
The hair on the back of her neck stood on end and a cold chill ran down her spine. All of her senses were suddenly hyper-sensitive and her eyes and ears strained to catch any sign of danger. A sudden peal of thunder rumbled through the hospital, causing her to jump. She could hear rain falling on the roof overhead. Great, she thought, now it’s raining out there.
Turning her attention back to the contents of the room Molly started shoving everything she could in her bag. I’ll sort through it later, when I’m in a more secure place. When her bag was full she squeezed back into the hallway where she left her pack and kneeled down to secure her new haul in it. Something crashed down the hallway, freezing her in mid-motion.